Since the movie’s initial, limited release on Christmas day, domestic box office receipts total $154.1 million and foreign receipts add another $26.5 million for a total of $180.6 million. For an R-rated movie, the film had the second-highest opening weekend ever (behind “The Matrix Reloaded”) and on the basis of Friday receipts alone has already passed the earlier movie for a two-week total.
How big a deal is this? In the fourth quarter of 2014, Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) posted total revenues from theater box-office receipts (called “film rentals” in the Form 10-Q) of $271 million, down by $249 million year-over-year. For the first nine-months of 2014, box office revenues fell 14%, from $1.473 billion in 2013 to $1.264 billion, a total of $209 million.
Of the 31 Warner Bros. movies that Box Office Mojo tracked in 2014, the average gross was around $50 million, for a total of $1.562 billion. (The studio released 22 movies last year.) The studio’s three highest grossing movies in 2014 were “The Lego Movie” with $257.8 million in receipts, followed by “Godzilla” with $200.7 million and “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” with $189.5 million. Only 10 of the studio’s 31 movies grossed $50 million or more and only five posted ticket sales of more than $100 million.
Time Warner released “American Sniper,” a Clint Eastwood-directed story about an American soldier in Iraq, on Christmas day in just four theaters. That is enough to qualify the film for consideration for an Academy Award in the 2014 contest.
With nearly $200 million in the bank already, the studio is about two-thirds of the way to equaling its third-quarter total ticket sales, and the first month of the first quarter isn’t behind us yet.
As a solid contender for Best Picture and Best Actor Oscars, if “American Sniper” should win either (it is also nominated for four other Oscars) the box office total could zoom. The last Warner Bros.-Clint Eastwood film to win an Oscar, “Million Dollar Baby,” earned $8.5 million prior to the Oscar nomination, $56 million after the nomination and nearly $36 million after winning. The award ceremony is scheduled for February 22, so there is plenty of time for “American Sniper” to pad the studio’s bottom line.